By Jonas Terrado
The PBA Press Corps begged off from selecting a Comeback Player of the Year for the second straight time, cognizant of the high standards set by the one who bares the name of the prestigious honor.
William “Bogs” Adornado defied injuries and perceptions of his game in decline between the late-70s and early-80s to become one of the 40 Greatest Players in PBA history.
Adornado earned the distinction as the PBA’s first ever Most Valuable Player, winning the award in 1975 and 1976 while donning the fabled green uniforms of the Crispa Redmanizers.
But a knee injury late in the 1976 season led to difficult years for Adornado in 1977 and 1978, coinciding with prominent roles for Atoy Co and Freddie Hubalde on Crispa coach Baby Dalupan’s rotation.
He did have one last memorable performance for the Redmanizers, pumping in 20 points in the deciding fifth game to help Crispa beat arch rival Toyota 118-111 to win the 1979 All-Filipino title.
“The comebacking Adornado, who played his ‘most memorable game,’ pumped 20 key points, mostly on one-on-one situations against Francis Arnaiz that proved to be the artillery that Crispa needed,” wrote Bert Eljera in his game story published on the Bulletin Today.
“And more than anybody else, it was Adornado himself who was the most elated about his performance,” said Eljera, who also described that Adornado “has been thinking along that in one of the championship games, he will get his breaks.”
It turned out that Adornado still has capabilities to regain his deadly form the following year when he moved to U-Tex after being traded by Crispa for P100,000.
He made his Wranglers debut in style, hitting 14 of 21 points in the third quarter to complete a 107-104 win over the Gilbey’s Gin Tonics.
“It was a stirring comeback and his legion of fans loved every minute of it,” said then-Bulletin sports editor Lito Fernandez in his column.
The former national team mainstay played a pivotal role in one of the greatest games in PBA history, scoring the go-ahead basket that completed U-Tex’s 98-97 overtime win over Toyota for the 1980 PBA Open crown.
Adornado, who finished with 29 points, capped the incredible U-Tex rally that saw coach Tommy Manotoc’s wards erase a four-point deficit with 16 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.
“It’s not right to say that I played hard for U-Tex because I wanted to prove something,” Adornado said in a lengthy Panorama article about U-Tex’s title run, refusing to describe his performance as a message to his former ballclub.
He wrapped up 1980 by dropping 64 points in a Nov. 23 game against San Miguel Beer, tying the then record made by Danny Florencio for 7-Up in 1977.
Adornado continued his remarkable turnaround in 1981, winning his third Most Valuable Player award. He played six more seasons for Great Taste, Shell and Hills Bros/Alaska before retiring after the ’87 season with 11,967 career points.
TNT KaTropa’s Kelly Williams was the last player to win the Comeback Player of the Year award which he received in 2017.